Competitive Fire Leads Kobe Bryant To Play Despite Ankle Injury, Ankle Injury Leads Him To Play TerriblyS

Fans and media often talk about Kobe Bryant's burning desire to win at all costs as a way of favorably comparing his reckless passion to others who might have a more holistic approach to the game, and just as often, to chide him for the willful tunnel-vision that causes him to lapse into hero-mode. Last night, Kobe offered a new chapter in that dialectic by courageously playing through the pain of an injury that left him sidelined "indefinitely" only two days ago, and, as it happens, playing very badly.

Limping around on his gross ankle injury, Kobe went 0-4 for zero points in the first quarter, missing three 18-foot jumpers and one 27-footer. Lance Stephenson, his opposite number during that quarter, had eight by the end of the first, and the Lakers had fallen down by three. After Kobe took himself out of the game, Los Angeles started playing better—they were up five by the end of the half—and ultimately the Lakers came away with the win in Indiana.

The AP's recap portrays the whole thing as very virtuous:

After hobbling around on a severely sprained left ankle for 12 minutes, Bryant retreated to the bench where he spent the rest of the night contesting calls, waving teammates into the right spots and even drawing something up on a clipboard for Dwight Howard to see.

He wasn't going to let up — or let his teammates down.

Except, of course, in that first quarter, when he was an obvious and damaging liability. The recap literally calls his decision to play "gallant," and devotes more space to zero-point scorer Kobe Bryant than to any of his teammates, who won the game very much in spite of him. Kobe "spent the second half clinging to a little black box with wires attached to the injured ankle." He "inspired the Lakers to rally." Steve Nash thought he was "great." Dwight Howard, presumably rolling his eyes, relayed the fact that "Kobe said we've got to do whatever we can." Truly inspiring stuff from the Lakers' game-changer, who undoubtedly changed the game for the worse last night before having the decency to sit down. Here's the recap in a nutshell:

Bryant continually pulled players aside during the game, offering encouragement and advice and helping them read the Pacers' vaunted defense. Eventually, things worked out.

In case you're actually curious as to how the Lakers won in the absence of their fearless leader, they shot 13-26 from three.

Kobe Bryant Plays 12 Minutes On Sprained Ankle [AP]